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The Corps' top west coast general is readying his Marines for the next big war
The Marine Corps' top general on the west coast is readying his Marines for the next big war against a near peer competitor, and one of his main concerns is figuring out how to alter the mindset of troops that have been fighting insurgencies since 9/11.
"If anything my problem is getting people out of the mindset of [counterterrorism] and making sure they're thinking about near peer adversaries in their training programs," Lt. Gen. Joseph Osterman, commanding general of I Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Pendleton, California, told Task & Purpose in an interview on Friday.
Exercise Pacific Blitz is one program in particular that is currently doing just that, involving thousands of Marines, sailors, and coast guardsmen training in and around southern California. The joint exercise not only brings together a large number of personnel but various assets as well, including Navy ships and landing craft, CH-53 helicopters, V-22 Ospreys, F-35s, and High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), a ground-based artillery system the Marines have previously test-fired from amphibious transport ships.
The bigger picture goal: Getting a large force like the 50,000-strong I MEF from sea to shore in a contested environment, described by the general in a press release as leveraging "a Marine land component as part of our larger goal of sea control."
Osterman even said personnel were being put ashore at nearby Catalina Island to build aircraft runways — seemingly a throwback to the Marine Corps' island-hopping campaigns of World War II.
"It's not part of the exercise necessarily but that's kind of one of the things we'd have to do on these remote islands is build runways. So it's somewhat tangentially aligned," Osterman said. "We're doing connector capability between islands."
In February, Marine Commandant Gen. Robert Neller told Task & Purpose the Corps had begun to move its training to a more traditional fight instead of what grunts would face against unsophisticated enemies in the Middle East, most notably in using more advanced enemies in force-on-force training against Marines going through pre-deployment training at 29 Palms, California.
"They had aircraft. They were able to jam [communications]. We had aircraft. And we fought force on force," Neller said on the sidelines of the 2019 West Conference in San Diego. "Marine infantry now, they've gotta look up" since enemies in Syria and Iraq have increasingly used unmanned aerial vehicles, and near peers will have assets such as attack helicopters and artillery.
As Osterman explained, Marine grunts now need to learn how to counter enemy drones, prepare for their GPS or communications to be jammed, and understand that enemy artillery, aircraft, or reconnaissance capabilities will be much more advanced if they're up against an adversary like China or Russia.
"We haven't had to worry about that for two decades," Osterman said. "The Taliban doesn't have any satellites up there."
Some of Osterman's Marines have already had a taste of that in Syria, where state and non-state actors have employed high-end anti-aircraft systems, GPS jamming technology, or hacking, for example.
"The Special Purpose [Marine Air Ground Task Force] we send to Central Command is engaged in all of that. High end, you know, kinetics in Syria, all the way down through advising the Iraqi forces. It's one where we've gotta do it all, frankly."
"Instead of having a forward operating base out there that they're living out of and doing operations they've actually got to constantly be moving because if they sit too long the enemy artillery is going to take them out," Osterman said of tactics Marines are beginning to think about. "So that gets them almost a little bit, back to [their] roots."
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WATCH: US Marines go head-to-head against British Royal Marines
‘I made promises to the people that I lost’— How the Iraq war forged a Navy SEAL’s path to Harvard Medical School and NASA
Navy Lt. Jonny Kim went viral last week when NASA announced that he and 10 other candidates (including six other service members) became the newest members of the agency's hallowed astronaut corps. A decorated Navy SEAL and graduate of Harvard Medical School, Kim in particular seems to have a penchant for achieving people's childhood dreams.
However, Kim shared with Task & Purpose that his motivation for living life the way he has stems not so much from starry-eyed ambition, but from the pain and loss he suffered both on the battlefields of Iraq and from childhood instability while growing up in Los Angeles. Kim tells his story in the following Q&A, which was lightly edited for length and clarity:
You can almost smell the gunpowder in the scene captured by a Marine photographer over the weekend, showing a Marine grunt firing a shotgun during non-lethal weapons training.
A Marine grunt stationed in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina is being considered for an award after he saved the lives of three people earlier this month from a fiery car crash.
Cpl. Scott McDonell, an infantry assaultman with 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, was driving down Market Street in Wilmington in the early morning hours of Jan. 11 when he saw a car on fire after it had crashed into a tree. Inside were three victims aged 17, 20, and 20.
"It was a pretty mangled wreck," McDonell told ABC 15. "The passenger was hanging out of the window."
New Vietnam War movie 'The Last Full Measure' takes some well-deserved shots at the military’s award process
Todd Robinson's upcoming Vietnam War drama, The Last Full Measure, is a story of two battles: One takes place during an ambush in the jungles of Vietnam in 1966, while the other unfolds more than three decades later as the survivors fight to see one pararescueman's valor posthumously recognized.
With ISIS trying to reorganize itself into an insurgency, most attacks on U.S. and allied forces in Iraq are being carried out by Shiite militias, said Air Force Maj. Gen. Alex Grynkewich, the deputy commander for operations and intelligence for U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria.
"In the time that I have been in Iraq, we've taken a couple of casualties from ISIS fighting on the ground, but most of the attacks have come from those Shia militia groups, who are launching rockets at our bases and frankly just trying to kill someone to make a point," Grynkewich said Wednesday at an event hosted by the Air Force Association's Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies.